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Decisions, Decisions…

January 19, 2010
Author: Trouts Staff

As most of you are aware, there are quite a few companies out there that have manufactured wonderful gear to help improve your fly fishing experience. Perhaps one of the most daunting decisions an angler can make is selecting a new fly rod. This week I would like to offer some insight on how one can go about choosing the perfect rod for their needs. Whether you chase redfish in the marshes south of New Orleans or stalk wary trout along the banks of the South Platte, we hope you absorb some useful information for when you make your next big decision.

Just like everything else, manufacturers tend to make things more confusing then they truly need to be. When I set out to purchase a new fly rod or when I am helping someone choose theirs, I will ask a series of different questions that qualify the individual. Some questions you should be asking yourself when shopping are. What do you intend to fish for? Where do you plan to do the bulk of your fishing? What rods, if any, do you currently own? What is your overall proficiency with a fly rod? What length and “action” do you need? And finally, what is your budget? These are all questions that you should ask yourself when looking for the right rod. For the sake of this post I will only delve into trout rods and their many nuances.

If you were to walk into any Rocky Mountain fly shop looking for your first fly rod and asked the salesperson to recommend just one, I would bet that 99% of fly shop employees would recommend purchasing a 9 foot, 5 weight fly rod. Due to this common recommendation, I will be using the 9 ft, 5 wt as a benchmark to reference when answering many of the questions I have listed above. So why would a shop employee recommend a 9ft 5wt to a never-ever? A 9ft 5wt is the “jack of all trades, master of none”; it does everything well, but certainly has its limitations. You will notice when fishing a 9ft 5wt that it may be difficult at times to cast large flies, indicators or split shot. These tasks would be better suited for a 9 foot, 6 weight rod. Given that the 6 weight is “heavier”, it would perform better when casting long distances, fishing from a boat, fishing with large wind resistant flies or a heavily weighted nymph rig. Another limitation you might come across when fishing a 9ft 5wt is the fact that it does not present dry flies as delicately as a 3 or 4 weight. A smaller weight rod is better suited for fishing small creeks and streams, where making both delicate and accurate presentations is the key to your success. More importantly, a smaller or lighter weight rod can be more fun due to its ability to make a smaller fish seem that much bigger.

In addition to selecting the proper weight, you also will need to figure out what length rod will best suit the conditions you will be fishing. Trout rods generally range between 6’ to 10’ in length. A shorter rod, say 6’6’’, is a great choice for those that like to spend their time chasing trout in small creeks and streams where heavy brush and tight conditions are the norm. A much longer rod, such as a 10’, is great for those that like to fish out of a belly boat or use the technique of high-stick nymph fishing. The added length would afford a seated belly boater the ability to keep his or her fly line off the waters surface when false casting and provide a nymph fisherman the added benefit of having a longer reach to also keep more fly line out of the water, thus improving the overall presentation of their flies.

Lastly, when selecting a rod you will want to take into consideration the “action” or “flex” of the rod in question. Generally beginners and intermediates will find that a medium to medium-fast action rod will be easier to learn with. These softer actions allow the beginning angler the opportunity to feel the fly line load the rod when casting and are less likely to exaggerate any rookie mistakes. When learning to cast properly it is paramount that you feel the rod load, without “feeling it” the likelihood of one learning the proper stroke or rhythm is greatly diminished. Now it’s not to say that softer actions are strictly for the beginner. Advanced anglers too can benefit from having a medium action rod in their quiver. In fact, softer rods have proven themselves invaluable when fishing to large fish with extremely fine tippets. These rods are better at acting like a shock absorber, protecting your tippets from breaking when hooking, playing and landing large trophy sized trout.

On the other end of the “action spectrum”, you have what are commonly referred to fast or ultra-fast action rods. As you become a more proficient caster or angler, you may begin to desire a more performance driven fly rod. In the right hands, the performance characteristics typically associated with fast action rods include higher line speed, an increase in casting distance and greater accuracy. Whether it’s casting large hopper patterns into gale force winds, roll casting a heavily weighted nymph rig or placing a tiny dry fly into a feeding lane at fifty feet; the faster rods are a great thing to have when you graduate to that level.

Hopefully this bit of insight will better prepare you for the next time you venture into your local fly shop to make that critical decision. Just remember, when trying to select the perfect fly rod for you and your fishing conditions, to take into account all the characteristics discussed above and try to purchase the highest quality rod that you can afford. Just like everything, you truly get what you pay for!

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